May 4, 2018 / 5:31 PM / 2 months ago

France's Macron, after overture to Church, to visit pope in June

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - President Emmanuel Macron, accused of straining France’s secular foundations by saying he wanted to mend ties with the Catholic Church in his country, will travel to the Vatican in June to meet Pope Francis, the Vatican said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during the AMF congress, the annual meeting of French mayors, in Paris, France, November 23, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said both sides were organizing a visit for late June but no further details were available.

In April, Macron called for stronger ties between the state and the Catholic Church, a move critics said blurred a line that has kept French government free of religious intervention for generations. [nL8N1RN50P]

The issue is particularly sensitive in historically Catholic France, where matters of faith and state were separated by law in 1905 and which is now home to Europe’s largest Muslim and Jewish communities.

France’s guiding principles also hold that religious observance is a private matter, for all faiths.

Raised in a non-religious family, Macron was baptized a Roman Catholic at his own request when he was 12.

Under a tradition that began in the 15th century when France was a monarchy, French leaders are automatically given the title of “First and Only Honorary Canon” of the Rome Basilica of St John’s in Lateran, which is also the pope’s cathedral in his capacity as bishop of Rome.

Most French leaders visiting Rome usually attend a special service there.

Reporting By Philip Pullella, Editing by William Maclean

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